President Trump announced that he would use his executive authority to block the full publication of the Mueller report:
President Trump formally asserted executive privilege over special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report Wednesday, his first use of the executive authority in the escalating confrontation with Congress.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote in a letter to Congress that Trump had “asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials.” Boyd argued that Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s push to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt had “terminated” their negotiations over what materials lawmakers would be allowed to view from Mueller’s investigation.
“As we have repeatedly explained, the Attorney General could not comply with your subpoena in its current form without violating the law, court rules, and court orders, and without threatening the independence of the Department of Justice’s prosecutorial functions,” Boyd wrote.
The White House assertion of privilege represents the latest collision between Trump and House Democrats, who have seen their investigations of the president blocked at every turn. Some legal experts argued the White House and Attorney General were simply stalling, making a dubious claim of privilege over the Mueller report they have intensively reviewed to put off a fight in court.
Democrats assailed Trump officials and accused the White House of trying to hide the truth from the public, embracing secrecy for a report that the president repeatedly said had exonerated him.
“This decision represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’s constitutionally mandated duties,” Nadler said, later adding: “As a coequal branch of government, we must have access to the materials that we need to fulfill our constitutional responsibilities in a manner consistent with past precedent.”
The White House move came shortly before the House Judiciary Committee met to vote to hold Barr in contempt for failing to provide the full Mueller report. The likely move against Barr represented just the second time in history that a sitting attorney general would be held in contempt of Congress; the Republican-led House admonished Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012 over his failure to provide documents to Congress.
Barr released a redacted, 448-page version of the Mueller report on April 18 that found no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, which interfered in the 2016 election. The report also identified 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice by Trump.
House Democrats have pressed for the full, unredacted report and the underlying evidence, arguing that Mueller did not make a decision on whether Trump obstructed justice and left the matter to Congress. In order to determine what happened — and whether they should impeach Trump — they panel said it needs access to all of Mueller’s material.
Democrats moved to reprimand Barr for ignoring their congressional subpoena. And during the Wednesday contempt hearing, they cast the White House claim of privilege as bogus, arguing the administration waived privilege by allowing aides to testify before Mueller — and Barr to release the report to the public.
At the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended the decision in a Wednesday morning statement.
“The American people see through Chairman Nadler’s desperate ploy to distract from the president’s historically successful agenda and our booming economy. Neither the White House nor Attorney General Barr will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands,” Sanders said. “Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the attorney general’s request, the president has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege.”
The assertion of privilege was broad — covering all of the underlying materials from Mueller’s investigation, such as reports of interviews and notes of witnesses, as well as the entire, unredacted Mueller report. The Justice Department considered it important for the White House to assert executive privilege before the House vote on contempt because, in their view, doing so would effectively invalidate the citation, a person familiar with the matter said.
The Justice Department believed that Barr could not be legitimately held in contempt for withholding materials over which the president had asserted executive privilege, the person said. Democrats, countered, that that was not the case and redoubled their efforts.
During the Judiciary session, Democrats and Republicans assailed each other, with the majority accusing the minority of trying to hide the fuller Mueller report from the public while the Republicans said Democrats were being overzealous in their probes.
“The attorney general of the United States refused to provide information that is not privilege and is subject to a subpoena,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). “There is no privilege for this information. Executive privilege is not a cloak of secrecy that drapes across” Washington, he said.
Republicans used their time to defend Barr’s name and tried to divert the conversation back to the origins of the Russia investigation, accusing the FBI of being guided by anti-Trump bias.
“Bill Barr is following the law and what’s his response? Democrats are going to hold him contempt,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), “I think it’s all about trying to destroy Bill Barr because Democrats are nervous that he’s going to get to the bottom of everything.”
The GOP has stood steadfast with Trump since he took office, rarely breaking with the president, dismissing the multiple investigations and insisting it was time for Democrats to move on. Rep. Douglas A. Collins (Ga.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, argued against the citation against Barr.
“Why this rush?” he asked. “Without any valid legislative or administrative reason, we can only assume Democrats, led by the chairman, have resolved to sully Bill Barr’s good name and reputation.”
Barr sent a written request to Trump Wednesday morning asking him to assert privilege because the Judiciary Committee had “declined to grant sufficient time” for the Justice Department to review the Mueller materials, which included law enforcement information, information about intelligence sources and methods and grand jury material that would be illegal to release.
“In these circumstances,” Barr wrote, “you may properly assert executive privilege with respect to the entirety of the Department of Justice materials that the Committee has demanded, pending a final decision on the matter.”
Republicans seemed to seize on that reasoning at a hearing Wednesday to discuss the citation.
“You cannot be in contempt for failing to produce what would be illegal to produce without a court order,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.).
Democrats responded that they were not asking Barr to break the law. They had implored him for months to join them in going to a court to get permission from a judge to release grand jury information protected under the law. Barr, however, refused.
The immediate effects of the White House move to claim executive privilege over the report were not entirely clear for Congress. House Democrats, for example, had plans to subpoena key witnesses mentioned in Mueller’s findings, as they had already done with White House counsel Donald McGahn. Some Democrats mused that such a claim — though they did not feel it was valid — could make it harder to receive documents and testimony from others who cooperated with Mueller.
Nadler, in an interview on CNN Wednesday, indicated that he was less confident that Mueller would testify to Congress despite negotiations between Democrats and representatives for the special counsel.
“I think the president will try to stop Robert Mueller. Whether he will succeed is another question,” Nadler said.
A Justice Department official said that the assertion of executive privilege Wednesday has “no direct bearing on Special Counsel Mueller’s testimony,” the date and terms of which are still being discussed. But the move could limit what Mueller can say indirectly, by putting particular subject areas off limits.
The Justice Department previewed the news on Tuesday evening. In a late-night letter to Nadler, Boyd argued that the Justice Department had tried to accommodate Democrats’ demands for the release of the full Mueller report, which the Judiciary panel subpoenaed for its investigation into the president.
But Boyd said that Democrats — who made a counteroffer to the Justice Department in a last-ditch negotiation session to stave off a scheduled contempt vote for Barr Wednesday morning — “has responded to our accommodation efforts by escalating its unreasonable demands.” (source, source)
I have said before and I will say it again- the entire drama taking place right now in the White House with Trump and claims of spying is a “reality” reality TV-type distraction from more serious issues, such as the abject failure of Trump to follow through on his promises as a President and his work in advancing nationalism and militarism around the world, especially in Japan and Germany.
It should be treated like the television show that it is- change the channel and watch something that has more value.
The reason I bring up this report- the only reason at all -is to illustrate a principle of conduct that other Presidents have done, and which Trump is also doing but to a much more complete end. It is to use the possession or pretext of power in order to shield oneself from crimes that one may have committed while at the same time demanding not even the same, but a much higher standard of people with far less power or influence.
In the case of Deutsche Bank, the question is whether or not Trump is part of a financial deal involving DB and the Saudis in light of the government deal to sell weapons to the Saudis to enable their genocide of the Yemeni people. You can read an analysis of it here.
The issue with the Mueller report is twofold.
First, Trump has asserted that “I was framed,” and by framed he is speaking of the Democrats who he accuses of attempting to stymie his efforts as a president to realize the goals his voter base wanted him to accomplish. This is a questionable claim in itself, because Trump has shown by his own actions to refuse to follow through on his own promises.
Second, and more significant, is if Trump truly was framed and is “innocent,” what is the problem with the public seeing the “unredacted” report? It could be a publicity stunt, or it could be there really is something he does not want others to see. Truth be told, we do not know exactly what is going on.
What matter is that the move in itself demonstrates an abuse of his executive powers as President.
Imagine if Obama or Clinton did this same act, assuming the same details and circumstances. The only change would be the person.
Would the Republicans criticize him? Would they be right to say that the Democrats are acting in a way that is absurd and dangerous? They absolutely would be not because of party affiliations, but because of behavior.
Behavior is what matters, and for a very long time American presidents have used and abused their power for their personal benefit and that of their funders, with the respective party playing their role in the phony drama that is the current political system.
Nobody should support Trump’s actions in either the Deutsche Bank or this Mueller report because his actions are just as objectionable if Obama, Bush II, or Clinton had done them, and only serve to draw attention rather than accomplish anything of value.